Teenagers often get a bad rap for having “all about me syndrome.” Kenan Pala, a 17-year-old from San Diego, the founder of the non-profit organization Kids4Comunity is quite the opposite. He wants to change the world by giving back to his community, and he is well on his way.
It all began when Pala was jogging on the beach with his dad and they came across a sick baby seal, lying on the shore, clearly in need of help. Luckily for the seal, a crowd of people nearby were calling park rangers and providing blankets and water. On the car ride home, Pala and his father drove past a homeless person who was essentially in the same predicament as the seal — he was hungry, needed help and was sick.
Instead of people going out of their way to help the man, they drove by him as if he was invisible. “I felt like it wasn’t right,” Pala recalls. “We can’t just ignore our own species.”
Pala did some research, but was dismayed to find a complete lack of opportunities for kids his age to get involved. That’s when he took matters into his own hands and started Kids4Community, a non-profit that partners with local charitable organizations to help create kid-friendly volunteer opportunities.
Some of the programs Kids4Commnity is involved in include assembling hygiene kits for the homeless, beach clean-ups, serving meals at homeless shelters and providing care packages for students in need. Pala tells Parentology, “I realized that when a group of like-minded, determined and dedicated kids comes together, anything can happen. You can be [age] eight or 25, if you want to do something, you can get the job done.”
The main focus of Kids4Community is to inspire kids to get involved. Though he realizes this can be a challenge, Pala knows that once kids see the benefit of their work firsthand, they are more likely to return.
At one of Kids4Community’s last events where they assembled hygiene kits, Pala came up with an idea for making assembling hygiene kits fun by having the kids customize them as an art project. “Kids can make a meaningful difference and have fun along the way.”
Looking to continuously raise awareness, Pala plans to spread his messages to other places beyond Kids4Community. “I hope kids can start their own endeavors and create their own opportunities to give back so that it’s not just a local movement, but a national one. I hope and dream that Kids4community inspires kids to start their own projects and are able to see their potential as a volunteer and a community activist.”
When talking about what he loves most about Kids4Community, Pala says, “When you volunteer, you’re doing something for someone else, but doing a lot more for yourself. It helps you find your place in life, shows you that you have a purpose. It’s the most direct way to understand that you matter and you can make a difference. Volunteering subtlety changes the way you are, for the better, as a person.”